Professional Perspective, Times Two

November 24, 2015 | by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs

If an internship is one of the best ways for college students to prepare for professional life, consider Clare Spires doubly ready.

The senior exercise science major from Pontiac spent her summer hustling between two internships—one in Elmhurst Memorial Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program and another at Villa St. Benedict, a senior living community in Lisle. Spires said the twin internships made for a busy schedule, but paid off in extra insights into her chosen field.

“Working in two different environments with different staff and different patients gives you a lot of diversity of experience,” she said. “You’re learning about two different areas of your field.”

Students in exercise science apply biomechanics, psychology, physiology, anatomy and other disciplines to build a scientific understanding of human movement, fitness and health. Spires’s summer experiences introduced her to some of the ways her studies could be put to use in professional settings.

At Elmhurst Memorial, Spires worked with patients recovering from heart difficulties. Her responsibilities included not only monitoring blood pressure and other basic health indicators, but also educating patients about exercise regimens and healthy eating. She also learned that ordinary conversation can be an important part of promoting good health.

“It’s so important to just be able to talk with patients. You learn so much that way,” she said. “Maybe they have had a surgery previously that they think is totally unrelated and so they might not mention it. But that’s the sort of thing that you can learn in conversation and it may make a big difference.”

At Villa St. Benedict, she worked in the community’s physical education center, testing new residents’ fitness levels and leading classes in improving balance and core strength. There, too, she came to appreciate the human relationships at the heart of health care.

“The best part of the experience was learning about people on a personal level,” she said. She was especially happy to work with the older population at Villa St. Benedict. “I’ve always loved being around older people. There’s something about the wisdom and the experience they have.”

Impressed by the level of professional teamwork she experienced at Elmhurst Memorial, Spires said she is now considering a career in cardiac rehabilitation. She plans to apply to graduate programs in the field.

Whatever comes next, Spires says she will be better prepared thanks to her summer internships.

“It’s really cool to have the chance to apply what I was learning in class to real-world situations,” she said. “That real-life experience is so important.”

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